Haven’t we all dreamt of a career that feels like destiny? That’s the dream Kasif Ali lived, being a classical singer residing in the colourful and vibrant streets of Kutcha Setha, Lahore. But like most success stories, his journey wasn’t a straight line either. It’s a journey that was fuelled by his passion, that was tested by struggles, and was shaped by his victories.

Stepping into Kashif’s home is like entering Kucha Setha itself. The walls, soaked with music, speaks volumes about the generations of artists the street has produced. Imagine this: a faded blue wooden cabinet, with a pigeon inside peaking curiously through the sliding doors, a cloth draped on the wall with a frame and the Hamsa hanging proudly on the wall. Here, amidst the constant hum, sits Kashif, with stories waiting to be sung. For him, music wasn’t a choice he made. It was woven into the very fibre of his being. At just 12, under the guidance of his uncle and brother, he began his musical training. From that moment onwards, he dreamt of a world where his voice could travel through the narrow streets of Kutcha Setha to faraway lands.

“Success doesn’t come knocking. You have to value your craft, understand it and respect what you have created”

Kashif’s future wasn’t as harmonious as he had imagined. With inflation at it’s peak in the country, his professional life spiralled out of control, mirroring the struggles of countless others. Financial problems became a constant companion, and the dream of being known in the music world was slipping away. Making ends meet was a constant battle and life abroad seemed heavenly. Lured by promises of a ‘beautiful life and a handsome salary’ abroad, Kashif embarked on a journey he had never imagined. Falling victim to a devastating scam, he lost a significant amount of money.

Heart-broken but not defeated, he moved to Dubai. He constantly hunted for musical opportunities, but odd jobs became his reality. “I suffered a lot,” he recalls, “But I never lost hope.” Kasif’s resilience was what he needed to soar, and not just survive. His talent opened doors, and made way for opportunities. “It was like someone’s prayers for me had been answered.” From collaborating with Indian artists to performing at various social events; his music finally found a stage.

Even after decades of performing, Kashif sees himself as a student of his art, and believes it might take him a ‘lifetime to truly understand this art’. Kashif not only encourages passion, but emphasizes on values and hard work. “Success doesn’t come knocking, you have to value your craft, understand it and respect what you have created,” he stresses. And this understanding, he believes, empowers artist to demand respect and fair treatment. “Unlike Pakistan,” he shares, “I’m paid what I deserve quicker than my sweat dries in Dubai.”

Kashif’s story also highlights the hurdle of digital divide for Pakistani artists. Before every gig, artists are asked about their online presence and follower count as digital platforms like Tiktok and Instagram play a crucial role in promoting an artist in Dubai, while Pakistan’s opportunities solely depend on personal connections as artist lack basic digital knowledge and cannot showcase their talent to the best of their ability. This struggle resonates by many in the streets of Kucha Setha.

“This art is difficult to learn, but once you do; you understand it, you value it and you worship it”

Kashif’s journey of success hasn’t reached its destination, but it has travelled from the streets of Lahore to the stages of Dubai. It’s story of clinging onto hope for those who haven’t found their stage yet.  It’s a reminder that talent carves its own path, and creates its own opportunities. “With the right tools and a determined spirit, you’ll be knocking at success’ door.”

His story isn’t unique, many aspiring singers from Kucha Setha are yearning for their voices to be heard but are battling the harsh realities of the music industry today. In a world that feels impersonal or disconnected, Kashif’s voice portrays raw emotion. A voice that would move you, inspire you and stay with you. So, the next time you hear a classical singer pouring their heart out, remember Kashif. Remember the countless voices waiting to be heard and known. Because somewhere in that aching tune, lies not only a singer, but a storyteller, a dreamer and a human. And who knows, your own song of success might just begin to play.

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